New carve-up to have dramatic effect on political landscape
The Coalition came to power promising to cut the number of TDs in the Dáil by 20. A rising population, as revealed by the census, put paid to that. However, there will be radical changes to the constituenciesTHE CONSTITUENCY changes announced in June have been the most dramatic since the infamous Tullymander of the 1970s.
Jimmy Tully of Labour was minister for local government back then and carved up the constituencies to supposedly favour Labour and Fine Gael candidates. As it transpired, the ruse backfired spectacularly and Fianna Fáil coasted home with a landslide in 1977. It led to the task of recommending changes to constituency boundaries and seat numbers being put in the hands of an independent commission.
There’s been a huge carve-up this time around, but it’s all above board.
The Coalition promised to reduce the number of TDs in the Dáil as part of its programme for government. Fine Gael’s Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan promised as many as 20 seats being pruned from the 166-chamber. But this year’s census – with a surprising rise in population – put paid to that (and besides Labour was never quite as enthusiastic about such a precipitous drop).
But the upshot is still substantial change. The 32nd Dáil will have eight fewer TDs than the current Dáil, the 31st. The number of constituencies will fall from 43 to 40. And to accommodate all that change, there have been wholesale changes to most other constituencies, with radical redrawing of the maps.
Only eight of the 43 have remained untouched and – inevitably – county boundaries have been breached, with swathes of bigger counties such as Galway, Mayo and Donegal being sacrificed to allow smaller counties such as Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon to retain their constituencies.
Dublin has also been affected by a dramatic redrawing with the loss of one constituency in the north side and the once mammoth five-seat Dublin South being crumpled into the new three-seat Dublin Rathdown.
Overall, the number of five-seaters, at 11, remains unchanged.
However, some former five-seaters such as Cavan-Monaghan, Dublin South, Cork South Central, Dublin South Central, and Mayo are no more.
They have all lost seats, though a fifth five-seater, Laois-Offaly, has been split into two three-seat constituencies. Elsewhere new five-seaters have been created in Kerry, Donegal, Tipperary, Dublin South West, Fingal and Dublin Bay North (most created by joining two three-seaters).
The knock-on effect is that the number of three-seat constituencies will be 13 instead of 17 and the number of four-seat constituencies will be 16 instead of 15.
It’s a difficult business predicting the winners and losers. Before the 1977 changes, Jimmy Tully made assumptions about support for government parties that were not borne out. And it is much too early to even begin second-guessing voter intentions for the next general election, still some four years away.